(ANIMAL CRUELTY) SOUTH DAKOTA — Animal welfare groups can rejoice at the possibility of South Dakota finally making animal cruelty a felony.

After years of debate, the state put together a proposal that will hopefully satisfy both animal welfare groups and livestock producers, said state veterinarian Dustin Oedekoven on Tuesday.

Livestock, factory farming, animal cruelty, South Dakota, politics
Lawmakers in South Dakota are ready to make animal cruelty a felony. Photo Credit: Associated Press

State legislation has repeatedly shut down similar bills to make animal cruelty a felony. Although South Dakota does make animal cruelty a misdemeanor, it is one of the few states that does not have felony penalties for the inhumane treatment of animals.

In an effort to please both animal rights activists and livestock producers, the proposal will make it illegal to cause intentional torture and harm to animals, and certain acts of malicious will be made into a Class 6 felony—which could mean up to two years in prison for anyone who intentionally causes harm to animals.

According to Keloland News, the bill will also claim that standard accepted livestock-raising practices are not mistreatment. Many are hopeful that this time the legislation will pass in favor of animal rights.

“What it really comes down to is that the ag groups have taken charge of this. Instead of being on defense on the introduction of this type of legislation, they’ve decided to be at the table in drafting this legislation,” Oedekoven told the Huffington Post.

“In doing so, we have created the felony penalty for certain acts which I think all agree are terrible acts and we would agree a felony penalty would be appropriate. We’ve also been careful to clarify in general that standard accepted ag practices are not considered mistreatment or cruelty,” he continued.

Both livestock producers and animal rights groups are ready to stop fighting the same legislative battle year after year. Both sides are hopeful for the bill to pass and for each side to be fairly represented. The bill will be open for legislation on January 14,2014.

— Cara Meyers, exclusive to Global Animal